Although she was just 5 years old when she began training as a dancer, Lompoc resident Bree Jansen said she soon realized that all the practicing and hard work was preparing her for more than simply performing on stage.

“My [childhood] instructor, Denise Donlon, not only trained me in the techniques of classical ballet, tap and jazz dances, but also instilled self-discipline, time management and positive work ethic in me,” Jansen said this past week.

“My high school dance coach and mentor, Kathi Sarkin, taught me that all students, no matter their background or abilities, are able to achieve success through the arts.”

Those early lessons apparently stuck with her.

Jansen, who now teaches English and dance at Lompoc High School, has been selected the 2020 Santa Barbara Bowl performing arts teacher of the year.

The honor, which encompasses all of Santa Barbara County, was announced Wednesday by the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

“Bree has opened the world of dance to students of all ages and abilities with her inspiring and creative teaching,” Susan Salcido, county superintendent of schools, said of Jansen’s selection. “We are thrilled to once again have performing arts recognized for the important role it plays in a well-rounded education.”

Jansen, who has been teaching for 17 years, will be recognized for the honor at the Education Office's Teachers Network Education Celebration on May 23 at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton, then again with a more formal recognition in November at the seventh annual “A Salute to Teachers” gala.

Jansen said she was very surprised upon hearing that she had been chosen for the award.

“There are so many performing arts educators who put their hearts and souls into their programs, and they all deserve to be recognized,” she said. “I consider myself very fortunate to receive the recognition this time.”

Jansen is the second Lompoc High School teacher and the third Lompoc Unified School District teacher to win the award, which has been given out annually since 2015.

Lompoc High drama teacher Sarah Barthel, with whom Jansen routinely collaborates on stage shows at the school, was presented with the inaugural 2016-year award in the fall of 2015.

Two years later, the 2018-year award went to Garson Olivieri, a band and orchestra instructor at Cabrillo High School.

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Last year, the 2019-year award went to Aniela Hoffman, a music teacher at Arellanes Junior High School in Santa Maria.

The lone other winner, for the 2017 academic year, was Brett Larsen, a music teacher at Adams Elementary School in Santa Barbara.

At the May 23 Education Office event, Jansen will also be recognized for a performing arts grant that she earned in collaboration with Barthel.

“Like my fellow educators, I realize that we are educating the whole individual and lessons learned on the stage or in the classroom are not limited to dance or theater arts,” said Jansen, a Lompoc High alumna.

Lompoc High Principal Paul Bommersbach said the school was “very fortunate” to have Jansen in its ranks.

“Bree’s passion for dance shows each and every day when she works with our students,” he said. “She is a dynamic teacher who instills the beauty of many forms of dance into our students’ lives.

"Our students then tell stories with their dance, and every now and then you will see Bree join her students, dancing along with them.”

The Performing Arts Teacher of the Year Award was created through a partnership between the Education Office and the Santa Barbara Bowl with the aim of supporting performing arts in the community.

In addition to her teaching duties, Jansen is also an adviser for the LHS Sapphire Dance Team and director of the LHS Dance Company.

She said the Performing Arts Teacher of the Year Award means a lot to her.

"Any time that arts education can be brought into the spotlight is valuable," she said. "I am grateful to be able to bring more awareness and recognition to my program, school and community."

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.



Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base, for Lee Central Coast News. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.